How to analyze strange claims?

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In summary, the conversation discusses the possibility of using statistical analysis to evaluate the truthfulness of personal claims, particularly in the realm of paranormal experiences. The speaker suggests that while it may be possible to use statistics in this way, the complexity of human psychology may make it difficult to obtain accurate results. They also mention the limitations of using statistics in evaluating claims of paranormal experiences, as honesty and sanity of the claimant can also play a role. The conversation also brings up the example of J.B. Rhine's ESP experiments and the potential for false data in such studies. Overall, the potential for using statistics to evaluate the truthfulness of claims is discussed, but the practicality and accuracy of such an approach is questioned.
  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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For you statisticians out there, I have long wondered about the possibility of evaluating the "truth" of personal claims by using statistical analysis. Considering the incredible success of demographics and other fields, might this also be possible. If you look at my other threads you will find that I make the argument at times that we cannot readily dismiss claims of the paranormal simply because we lack sufficient evidence. Could scientific evidence exist - one way or the other- in the statistical evaluation of a well designed questionare...for claims of ghost encounters for example?
 
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  • #2
Are you trying to say we could possibly use statistics to analyze strange claims and then gauge how likely they are to be true?

If that's the case, I personally think most people would agree that it would be possible to analyze 'claims' using statistics, but once you took into account complex subjects like human psychology, the results would be near nill that such strange claims are actually true anyways. In other words, it sounds like a daunting task for which we already know the answer.

Of course, sometimes people can be surprised.
 
  • #3
One type of case is the story you sometimes see of someone who dreamed of an airplane crash, and sure enough, next day an airplane crashed. In a nation of almost 300 million people, somebody's going to be dreaming about airplane crashes every night! Is that the kind of thing you meant?
 
  • #4
I mean an estimate such as: 42% certainty that at least 3% of 10,000 claims are true...or odds of 1:3 that at least one true and accurate story is found. Something like this; not a comment on any particular case but a statistical evaluation of the complete results. The psychology is the part that I understand - from other surveys discussed somewhere along the line - can be defeated given a well designed test.

Also, I mean situations where honesty is the issue. In many situations, the honesty [or sanity] of the claimant is the most significant question. I also mean for people who have experienced something...not who claim to do something.

I would love to hash out the reasons for pursuing such issues but I suspect I should keep these arguments in the pseudo-science section; this is of course only until I win the argument. But I will give you all time to catch up with me first.

Take me on in the PS section anytime. I already have some posts there if you wish to review and beat-up on a couple of lines of reasoning.

For a related summary, please see the end of this discussion in the Theoretical Physics Forum:
Definitions and limits
 
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  • #5
Professor J.B. Rhine, who did ESP experiments, used to use that simple kind of statistics. He would report that some subject had called x cards in a row, unseen, and that was one chance in scabillions. But he never reported the unsuccessful calls, so you couldn't extimate the probability of runs. And then it turned out that his experimental setups, which were managed by an assistant, had holes in them that would maybe let the subject know what the cards were.
 
  • #6
I have read about the Rhine history a little. I wasn't aware of claims of false data, but I know that they have never produced convincing results. Still, this is a different animal that what I was thinking.

All that is really needed is a statistical method to determine the honesty of claims. Again, no specific claim being the point, rather a conclusion based on large numbers of reports - based on a statistical analysis of carefully engineered questions, how many of these claim are likely true? It seems to me that I have heard or read that well designed surveys include questions designed for just such purposes. Then some kind of mathematical analysis yields results with +- margins of error for accuracy, or in my example, truthfulness.

Does your answer imply that such evidence - be it for or against - could be obtained by using statistics if done honestly?
 
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  • #7
The evaluation

of statistical certainty is already well developed and used all the time by the pros. For instance the link between cigarette smoking and cancer has a high degree of certainty even though the sample taken was a small portion of the population.
 

Related to How to analyze strange claims?

1. How do I determine if a claim is valid or not?

The first step is to gather as much evidence and information as possible about the claim. This may include conducting experiments, researching previous studies, and consulting with other experts in the field. Look for any logical fallacies or inconsistencies in the evidence presented. Ultimately, the validity of a claim can only be determined through rigorous and unbiased analysis.

2. What techniques can I use to analyze strange claims?

There are a variety of techniques that can be used to analyze strange claims, including critical thinking, skepticism, and the scientific method. These techniques involve carefully evaluating the evidence, questioning assumptions, and considering alternative explanations.

3. How important is it to remain unbiased when analyzing strange claims?

Maintaining objectivity and avoiding bias is crucial when analyzing strange claims. It is important to approach the claim with an open mind and consider all available evidence before coming to a conclusion. Bias can cloud judgment and lead to inaccurate conclusions.

4. What role does evidence play in analyzing strange claims?

Evidence is the foundation of any scientific analysis. When analyzing strange claims, it is important to gather and evaluate all available evidence, including empirical data, expert opinions, and logical arguments. The strength and reliability of the evidence will greatly impact the validity of the claim.

5. Are there any red flags to look out for when analyzing strange claims?

Yes, there are several red flags that may indicate a claim is not valid. These include lack of evidence, reliance on anecdotal or personal experiences, and claims that contradict well-established scientific principles. It is important to approach these claims with caution and thoroughly evaluate the evidence before accepting them as true.

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